Yale students are accustomed to reading work from professors and teaching assistants. Most, however, are not used to reading student documents and using peer work for research purposes. But if James Tunick ’03 and Derek Lomas ’03 have their way, that may soon change.
Tunick and Lomas, along with faculty members and Information Technology Services, are in the process of creating the Digital Student Works Archive Project, or D-SWAP, an online collection of student work. Students will be able to upload documents and artwork, download peer files, and search for other students’ work. Tunick said they should have a prototype of D-SWAP available by the end of the school year. According to the business plan, D-SWAP will be a “centralized file exchange and archive for the digital music, art, video, and writing of Yale University students.”
ITS Director Philip Long said in an e-mail that ITS is willing to use its experience in managing large stores of knowledge to advise Tunick and Lomas. He said D-SWAP will allow students to find others who are interested in the same subjects and will allow students to build off each other, rather than replicate the same work.
Tunick said the initial idea for D-SWAP came from the success of music-sharing programs like Napster. He said he hopes to use student familiarity with file-sharing to promote what he sees as a new form of education.
“Not only does the archive encourage a new type of peer-oriented education, but it also promotes free speech, interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration,” Tunick said. “It is my belief that these conditions are the true seeds of innovation.”
While Lomas said most of the students he talked to were enthusiastic about D-SWAP, some expressed concerns about cheating and “over-sharing” of resources.
But Long said he was not worried.
“Plagiarism is a long-standing historical problem greatly exacerbated by the power of the digital world,” Long said. “I don’t see any reason why D-SWAP should aggravate this problem beyond what the ready availability of materials on the Internet already provides.”
The design of D-SWAP will be based in large part on Virtual Concert Hall, or ViCH, the Yale archive of published student music, Tunick said. Massachusetts Institute of Technology students launched a similar program, “D-SPACE,” in November. While Yale’s program will focus on undergraduate work, MIT’s program publishes faculty and graduate student work only.
D-SWAP will be set up as a self-cataloging system. Upon submission of work to D-SWAP, students will be asked to fill out a page of information about the work’s basic characteristics in order to make searching easier.
“It will be simple and intuitive,” Tunick said.
While D-SWAP will be free for Yale students, Lomas and Tunick said they still need considerable amounts of funding and plan to ask Yale and alumni groups for contributions. The students intend to use the money they earned when the D-SWAP business plan tied for first place in last year’s Yale Entrepreneurial Society Y2K competition. Tunick said initial server space, maintenance and administration will cost between $5,000 and $10,000.
“If Yale wants this to happen, they need to invest in it,” Lomas said.
The project because of the opportunities it will give students.
“Think about the long-term implications,” he said. “What if we still had student work written during Vietnam?”